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No. 2 Pencils- Why does LSAC Give a Crap?

  • by Colin Elzie
  • Apr 12, 2010
  • LSAT

No. 2 Pencils: Why does LSAC Give a Crap?

Without fail, over the course of every class I’ve taught, students always ask why they have to use #2 pencils. Why not a pen? Why not wite-out on a black scantron? Are there pencils that aren’t of the #2 extraction? Is a #1 pencil made out of pee? Would that make a #3 pencil gaseous? The answer to all of these, of course, is “shut up and do your homework.”

But then it occurred to me: I had a blog to write, and no topic. Suddenly the question seemed pertinent, timely, and very much not without merit.

First off, when taking the LSAT, you’re allowed to actually use both #2 pencils and highlighters. We don’t really recommend using the latter, especially if you’re color blind. They largely just waste time. And your scantron has to be filled in with a #2 pencil, anyway. You’re also not allowed to use black highlighters on your neighbor’s test to disrupt the curve.

You would think that the #2 pencil requirement is so that the ancient machine that runs the scantrons can actually read them, but you would be thinking like an idiot. The modern-day scantron can read pencils, pens, tea leaves, palms, and your (secret) emotions. So LSAC is just stuck in its ways as far as I can tell (and if you had a pen you could attack your proctors, who are armed only with ceremonial LSAT swords).

Apparently there exist #1 and #3 pencils. #1 pencils are really soft and smudgy, like charcoal or silly putty that is soft and smudgy. You can accidentally smear it all over the scantron, causing confusion for the old LSAT grading machine (“Betsy”) and ruining your chances at law school. #3 pencils are really light, so you have to press down really hard when writing. Since the LSAT is printed on newsprint, if you had to push that hard to take notes you could rip through the paper and then you might see the next section, and your proctor would have to cut the tips of your fingers off.

Oh, and you might have noticed that you can actually have a #2 or HB pencil. An HB pencil is what north-North-Americans (Canadians) call them. Apparently Canadians were scared by the numeric system, since they spend their childhood having to learn bastardized French rather than math (true story). Also, if you take the test in Quebec, you have to do the writing sample in both English and French, and it has to be an advocacy essay for Quebecois independence. Tres bon, Jean-Pierre!

In conclusion, I am now finished.

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